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GLÜCK, LOUISE (1943) Louise Glücks work is best known for its intense lyricism and its brilliant use of persona and myth. While her first book, Firstborn (1968), with its painful exploration of family conflict, is reminiscent of confessional poetry, Glück herself views the confessional mode as alienating to readers. Her later works rely more heavily upon communally held archetypal and mythic themes for insight into the personal. Despite its autobiographical tendencies, the overall voice of the poet easily brings the reader to a mythic and universal space. Glück was influenced by William Butler Yeats, by the modernists T. S. eliot and Ezra pound, and by postmodernist Robert lowells Life Studies (1959) (see modernism). In respect to her myth-making and her belief in the power of poetry to sustain life, she is perhaps most philosophically aligned with William Carlos WILLIAMS.
Born in New York City and raised on Long Island, Glücks publications include Firstborn, The House on Marshland (1975), The Garden (1976), Descending Figure (1980), The Triumph of Achilles (1985), which won the 1985 National Book Critics Circle Award, Ararat (1990), which received the 1992 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize, The Wild Iris (1992), winner of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize, Proofs and Theories: Essays on
Poetry (1994), Meadowlands (1996), and Vita Nova (1999). Additional awards include the Lannan Literary Award (1999), the Bollingen Prize (2001), and a wealth of fellowships. In 2003 she was named poet laureate by the Library of Congress.
Glück's lyrical voice is mystical and magical (see lyric poetry). General themes include motherhood, sex, and family. She draws heavily on classical myth, biblical stories, and fairy tales, eliciting a profound sense of the sacred that persuades readers to acknowledge forces beyond their control as they question their own place in the universe. Glück is a master of persona. Meadowlands, for example, is a revisioning of Homer's The Odyssey, in which Telemachus is perceptive ("I know / what he wants: he wants / beloved") and Circe is wise and experienced ("every sorceress is / a pragmatist at heart"). While many of her persona poems are mythological in nature, she demonstrates a wide range of voices. "Gretel in Darkness" (1975) revisits the story of Hansel and Gretel years after the witch has been thrown into "that gleaming kiln" and explores the struggle to keep history alive in a postholocaust world growing increasingly forgetful. The Wild Iris has three major speakers: the flowers, the gardener, and a god of the garden.
The poems in her earliest two works were, by and large, persona poems and thrilled as many critics as they troubled; however, her brilliant use of rhyme and meter overall overshadows any problems. If anything binds Glück's poetry together it is the simple and elegant specificity of language where archetypal and mythic themes create a new vision of a shared culture and its history.
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